Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

by Joshua Fields Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus

Minimalism is about eliminating the excess materialistic things so that you can focus on life’s most important things. This book will make you take a step back and reflect on your life so you can realize true happiness and freedom. You will ultimately learn how to lead a meaningful life by focusing on five key dimensions - health, relationship, passion, growth, and contribution. 

Summary Notes

Inventory of Life

“You are not your possessions, you are more than that.”

Minimalism is about eliminating the excess materialistic things so that you can focus on life’s most important things and find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom. Minimalism looks different for everyone because it is about finding what is essential to you. The concept of minimalism is based on finding happiness through life, not through possessions. So, the first step on the path to minimalism is to reflect on your materialistic possessions and evaluate whether they truly bring you happiness. 

The truth is, all the material possessions you accumulate will not bring lasting happiness. The thrill of the purchase will gradually fade and you will soon wish for the next item. We have all experienced this, and yet, many people search for life’s meaning through accumulating more possessions.

Your possession requires your energy and time as all of them need to be managed. Think about all the time you waste on tidying up a cluttered house, reorganizing your closet, etc. These activities only distract your attention from figuring out the things that truly matter to you like your purpose, relationships etc. 

To achieve a meaningful life, you first need to declutter. You will need to remove all the factors which bother you and make you feel stuck at the same place, i.e., anchors.

Actions to take


“Health isn’t a destination, it’s a vehicle to take us where we want to go.”

Health is the most important aspect of a meaningful life because without good health, you cannot do the things you want to do. Now, being healthy is not about having six-pack abs and ripped muscles - it is focused on feeling better, rather than looking better. 

Your health depends on two things. The first is your diet, which you can improve by having less caffeine, cutting down on fast food and eating more fruits and vegetables. The second aspect is exercise - even going for a walk or skipping ropes counts!

Actions to take


“Meaningful relationships take a considerable amount of hard work, focus, and time, but it is worth every bit of effort you put into them.”

Imagine having everything you ever wanted, but not having anyone to share it with. This lack of relationships can be quite depressing, after all, everyone wants to share their feelings and experiences with someone.

As humans, we all want to be loved and give love. Your relationships with your friends, partners, spouses, roommates, co-workers, or anyone with whom you interact regularly, will have an impact on your life. The people you spend time with will influence your attitude and behavior. Those who occupy your time affect your mind, simply because of your exposure to them. If you were to spend a lot of time around someone who has a negative mindset, it will eventually start to rub off on you too. 

To lead a meaningful life, your primary focus should be on building positive and meaningful relationships. Positive people are naturally more open to learning and improving their skills; they are constantly striving to get better. On the other hand, negative people tend to think they already know everything, making it difficult for them to get ahead in their life. In short, positive people focus on solutions while negative people focus on problems.

Actions to take


“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

When you follow your passion, you will be happier as you are doing something that you love. Remember, your work takes up significant amounts of your time and energy. If you do not have any passion, you’ll be more likely to feel dissatisfied with your life and end up burning out. 

There are two main obstacles that stop people from moving forward with their passion. The first has to do with your sense of identity, and the second, with your sense of certainty. 

Who are you? Most people answer this question with their job, for example, “I am an accountant”. However, linking your identity to your job means that if you were to replace your job with your passion, you would be violating your identity. Ultimately, your job does not define you - after all, you would still be you, even without your job. 

Instead, using meaningful labels to identify yourself (for example, “I am a father”) allows you to maintain your sense of identity while also giving you the flexibility to pursue your passion.

The second obstacle is that of certainty. When we are certain about our life, we feel comfortable, however, we are less likely to make the changes we need in order to pursue our passion and achieve happiness. For example, you may dislike your job - but you find certainty in it as you get a regular paycheck you can count on. To remove the anchor of certainty, you would have to associate pleasure with your passion. Think about the joy and satisfaction of accomplishing what you truly want to accomplish. This is what will keep you motivated even when it gets tough. 

Once you’ve removed these two obstacles from your life, the horizon becomes vividly clear and you can focus on cultivating your passion.

Actions to take


“We cannot become what we want, by remaining who we are.”

Growth is a continuous process. Once you make a positive change in your life, the journey isn’t over - you need to continue making changes if you want to be happy in the long-term. If you’re not growing, you’re dying. If you’re dying, by definition, you’re not living a meaningful life. 

Some changes are huge and immediate. For example, ending a relationship, quitting your job, or buying a home or a car are all big changes. However, it’s the baby steps that allow you to take the giant leaps. 

For example, If you exercise for just one day, you will likely see no real results, However, when you exercise everyday for a month, you will certainly see powerful results. As you make slight changes, your day-to-day life doesn’t change, but when you look back, everything is completely different.

Actions to take


“Adding value to someone else’s life is one of the most important things you can do with your life, and it has nothing to do with the money.”

More often than not, people are willing to do more for those they love than themselves because humans have an intrinsic need to contribute to something beyond themselves. Additionally, the more you help others, the more you will get in return. Overall, contributing to others will help you lead a more rich, meaningful life.

There are countless ways to contribute to others. It is not necessary to just contribute monetarily - you can contribute your time, support or knowledge. It is ultimately the value that matters, not the price.

Actions to take

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